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David Grubbs vs. Avey Tare | Split 12" (Fat Cat)
Despite the relative commercial success of Brighton's Fat Cat enterprise recently, it's reassuring - especially in these marketing heavy days of 'independent' releases - that the label has kept its commitment to more avant-garde endeavours.  Hence the release of this split 12" face off between David Grubbs and the Animal Collective's Avey Tare.  

Grubbs, no doubt keen to remind us of his most outrĂ© credentials after last year's avant-pop album 'Rickets & Scurvy', delivers two instrumental pieces derived from art gallery installation pieces he's been working on recently.  The first and best of the twosome, is the ten minute piano piece, The World Brushed Aside; a beatific ramble through the nouveau-classical terrain Dakota Suite explored on their 'Navigator's Yard' long-player and an affectionate nod to Howe Gelb's semi-improvised instrumental album 'Lull Some Piano.'  The second Grubbs selection, Theme From "Horizontal Technicolour" is a far harder listen, sliding as it does through four minutes of organ drones and watery samples that most certainly make far more sense when looking at the highbrow art installation it was originally intended for.  

One the flipside, Avey Tare ups the brain-scrambling pretentiousness even further.  His two vocal-based tracks - Crumbling Land and Misused Barber - sound like the death-throws of a musician committing a violent digital hardcore suicide, not for the faint-hearted.  His third and final piece - Abyss Song (Abbey's Song) - is a more manageable exercise in slow-motion synthetic atmospherics, but hardly an enthralling listen for all its thirteen minute track length.

Hard on the ears as well as the brain, this slab of art-house bafflement should keep vinyl hoarding readers of The Wire happy until the next Tony Conrad or Sun Ra reissues make it to Rough Trade in Covent Garden.  The rest of us melody-loving freaks should however proceed to our well-drained wallets with extreme caution.

Adrian Pannett
November-December 2003